John Leslie "Wes" Montgomery (6 March 1923 - 15 June 1968) was an American jazz guitarist. He is generally considered one of the major jazz guitarists, emerging after such seminal figures as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and influencing countless others, including Pat Martino, George Benson, and Pat Metheny.
Montgomery was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He came from a musical family; his brothers, Monk (string bass and electric bass) and Buddy (vibraphone and piano), were jazz performers. The brothers released a number of albums together as the Montgomery Brothers. Although he was not skilled at reading music, he could learn complex melodies and riffs by ear. Montgomery started learning guitar relatively late, at the age of 19, by listening to and learning the recordings of his idol, guitarist Charlie Christian. He was known for his ability to play Christian solos note for note and was hired by Lionel Hampton for this ability.
Many fellow jazz guitarists consider Montgomery the greatest influence among modern jazz guitarists. Pat Metheny has praised him greatly, saying "I learned to play listening to Wes Montgomery's Smokin' At The Half Note." In addition, Metheny stated to the New York Times in 2005 that the solo on "If You Could See Me Now," from this album is his favorite of all time. Joe Pass indicated that, "To me, there have been only three real innovators on the guitar--Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, and Django Reinhardt," as cited in James Sallis's The Guitar Players and in his Hot Licks instructional video. In addition, George Benson attests, "Wes had a corn on his thumb, which gave his sound that point. He would get one sound for the soft parts, and then that point by using the corn. That's why no one will ever match Wes. And his thumb was double-jointed. He could bend it all the way back to touch his wrist, which he would do to shock people." Kenny Burrell states, "It was an honor that he called me as his second guitarist for a session." In addition, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, and Pat Martino have pointed to him numerous times as a great influence.